sen monorom, Mondolkiri province – Minister of Health Hong Sun Huot, who has been touring remote provinces listening to suggestions from public health staffers, has a request of his own.
He wants international donors to give more money directly to government programs and less to NGOs. He made the remarks Monday while visiting the Sen Monorom provincial hospital, whose surgical wing is being built with European Commission funding. There are about 100 NGOs active in the health sector in Cambodia, Hong Sun Huot said.
This creates a nearly parallel health care system, he said. Although the ministry welcomes NGO support, the task of coordinating health care strategies should be left to the government, Hong Sun Huot said.
He noted that some country donors directly fund programs, using the EC’s cooperative program with government to fight malaria as an example. However, most countries contribute to health care solely through NGOs, the minister said.
Hong Sun Huot said his ministry will take this message to the Consultative Group donor meeting scheduled for June in Phnom Penh.
In the meantime, consultations with individual donors have started as the ministry develops a five-year plan that should be completed by year’s end, he said.
The surgical wing under construction in Sen Monorom is part of a $425,000 EC project managed by the French NGO Medecins du Monde. The EC has been involved in Mondolkiri province for five years, said Aldo Dell’Ariccia, charge d’affaires for the EC Delegation.
He said the EC helps run programs in cooperation with the government and through NGOs. The project managed by Medecins du Monde includes a wage supplement to health workers at the provincial hospital, six medical centers and seven health posts, said Philippe Guyant, MDM’s medical coordinator for the province.
As appreciated as this may be by health workers, wage supplements divide public servants into classes of well-paid and low-paid people, Hong Sun Huot said.
Dell’Ariccia agreed. But he argued that wage supplements are necessary incentives to retain qualified people and insure the continuity of programs.
Government wages are not enough for employees to live on, Dell’Ariccia said, but he added that measures announced by the government to raise salaries may improve the situation.
During his visit to Sen Monorom, Hong Sun Huot asked the medical staff to list their requests.
They ranged from putting an ophthalmologist on staff to having candles in the pharmacy for when the power goes out. Hong Sun Huot said the ministry has budgeted money to equip some medical facilities with solar power, and the Sen Monorom hospital should be included.
Employees transferred from Phnom Penh asked Hong Sun Huot for help with household expenses, saying it was difficult to survive on their monthly salaries of about $10. He told them the ministry plans to build housing for medical staff in remote areas.
Hong Sun Huot said the ministry intends to use loans from international organizations for staff training, medical equipment, and renovation or construction of adequate facilities. The ministry will rely on grants to support programs, he added.